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Thursday, May 29 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Architecture + Objects) Luxor Temple Fragment Conservation Project: Case Study

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My talk will present an overview of the conservation work undertaken over the last 17 years treating inscribed sandstone fragments in Luxor Temple, Egypt, and concurrently managing the temple site where they were stored and later displayed.  I will discuss issues unique to the project; protection of a massive number of semi-portable fragments and making them accessible at one of Egypt’s most popular tourist attractions.  Finally, I will include challenges posed by Egypt’s continuing political instability.

Luxor Temple itself is located in the ancient site of Thebes which was built in the 14-13th century BCE.  A blockyard on the grounds of the temple currently holds over 40,000 inscribed sandstone fragments originally used to build the temple walls and other structures in the vicinity.  The fragments had been quarried and cut into small sizes for reuse as a building material from late antiquity through the 19th century.  Thousands of such fragments were excavated during the 1950s and 60s by the Egyptian antiquities organization that had been stored directly on soil contaminated with saline groundwater.

During the 1970s and 80s, the Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago (Chicago House) documented approximately 2,000 inscribed fragments from this collection associated with the Temple.  They started a conservation project in 1995 after witnessing some fragments disintegrating into piles of sand.  The initial project which focused on documenting, treating and monitoring these 2,000 registered fragments rapidly expanded to include tens of thousand of inscribed fragments.  Over time, the conservation project went through a number of phases to meet a variety of needs; from small scale treatment and monitoring to large scale emergency protection and finally to site management including reconstruction of temple walls and creation of an open-air museum.

Key challenges to the project were limited time, materials, treatment facilities and storage space.  Adapting local resources for use on site as well as close cooperation with the local authorities contributed to the success of the project.  Our belief that increasing public access and promoting understanding and respect for the site and its artifacts would have a positive impact on the site itself, was confirmed by the number and demeanor of visitors to the site.

In addition, I will briefly discuss new challenges raised by the 2011 revolution and on-going turmoil in Egypt.  Like any contingency planning, a systematic, practical and sustainable site management program is even more necessary at sites vulnerable to political instability.  When site management planning stresses building strong cooperative relationships with the local community and professionals, there are direct, positive effects on daily site security and long-term sustainability.


Hiroko Kariya

Project Conservator, Epigraphic SurveynOriental InstitutenUniversity of Chicago
Hiroko Kariya was trained as an objects conservator at the Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She has worked in the Conservation Department, Brooklyn Museum and other museums in the United States. She has also worked on various archaeological sites... Read More →

Thursday May 29, 2014 2:00pm - 2:30pm PDT
Grand Ballroom B-C